Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The title of this post is how West Academic Publishing is promoting its latest notable nutshell publication authored by Mark Osbeck and Howard Bromberg. In part because I think it is near impossible to summarize modern marijuana law in short form, I view this nutshell effort as extraordinary in various respects. And here is how West briefly describes the product:
Concise yet comprehensive text that provides an overview of marijuana law. It discusses important issues pertaining to public policy, legal history, constitutional law, criminal law, and jurisprudence, as well as practical legal issues that concern both marijuana-related businesses and individuals, in areas such as banking, employment, tax, bankruptcy, and child custody.
The text provides in-depth coverage of federal laws governing marijuana, along with an overview of international, state, and local laws relating to marijuana regulation. It also provides an overview of arguments for and against medical and/or recreational legalization, as well as an analysis of how marijuana compares to other potentially harmful substances, both legal and illegal.
April 26, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
As reported in this local article, headlined "WV governor signs medical marijuana into law," the latest state to reform its marijuana laws is the Mountain State. Here are the details:
Gov. Jim Justice signed a comprehensive medical marijuana bill into law Wednesday, wrapping up what might have been the legislative underdog story of the session. Justice signed Senate Bill 386, which will put a medical cannabis commission into place to begin forming the regulatory infrastructure for the Bureau of Public Health to begin issuing marijuana patient ID cards on July 1, 2019.
This action makes West Virginia the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Surrounded by Democratic legislators who helped push the bill through, Justice said the law will help those who are suffering obtain access to a treatment approved by the medical community. “Our doctors are telling us, this is a pathway to help those people [who are suffering],” Justice said. “How could you turn your back on that? How could you turn your back on a loved one who is really suffering? To have a vehicle to be able to help, and to turn our back on it and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ To me, that’s not listening to the wise, and it’s not being charitable and caring, like we ought to be.”
The new law will allow patients suffering from 16 conditions to apply for a card with permission from their doctor, who must be approved to recommend marijuana by the Board of Public Health. Acceptable conditions include terminal illnesses, cancer, HIV or AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.
The law does not allow patients to grow or smoke marijuana. Only a licensed dispensary can issue marijuana in the form of pills, oils, topicals (gels, creams, ointments), tincture, liquid, dermal patch or non-whole plant forms for administration through a vaporizer or nebulizer.
Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, who sponsored the legislation and served as its point man, said he thinks the bill will help ease suffering of fellow veterans who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and simultaneously cut into the state’s opioid crisis, by taking money out of illegal drug dealers’ pockets.
Sporting a cannabis leaf-shaped pin on the breast of his jacket, Nitro resident Rusty Williams watched Justice sign the bill. Williams survived a late-stage diagnosis of testicular cancer. He said his doctors prescribed him aggressive doses of chemotherapy to combat the cancer, and he used illegally purchased marijuana to help him handle the treatments....
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said that, although some might be frustrated by the gap between the bill’s passage versus its 2019 full activation date, it will be a good thing for the state to not botch such a promising, although complex, initiative. He said other states have tried to shoot the moon and get things rolling prematurely, and it only served to their detriment. Woelfel also pointed out that the Legislature can revisit the bill in any session down the road and add to it, as needed.
Monday, April 17, 2017
The Denver Post, as highlighted here, this past weekend had a section of its "Sunday Perspective" focused on marijuana reform. Included among the section's contributors were "former Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, L’Eagle grow and dispensary owner Amy Andrle, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting, and former teachers turned science-based marijuana curriculum developers Sarah Grippa and Molly Lotz." Here are the headlines of the pieces with links:
April 17, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, April 13, 2017
As reported in this National Post piece, headlined "Liberals introduce long-awaited bills to legalize marijuana by July 2018," legislative leaders in Canada have finally put forward a full bill to legalize marijuana in that nation. Here are the basics:
The federal Liberal government has finally launched its long-awaited effort to legalize recreational marijuana, setting in motion a host of sweeping policy changes for public safety and health across Canada.
The suite of bills — which would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to buy pot — was introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
A government news release promises a “strict legal framework” for the production, sale, distribution and possession of pot, and says selling cannabis to a minor would for the first time become a specific criminal offence.
It also promises “significant penalties” for those who engage young Canadians in “cannabis-related offences” and a “zero-tolerance approach” to drug-impaired driving....
The bills are sure to come under heavy scrutiny in the coming weeks and months as Ottawa and the provinces and territories hash out the finer jurisdictional details of major issues like distribution and law enforcement. Health Minister Jane Philpott says criminalizing cannabis has not deterred use among young people, noting products like alcohol and tobacco are legally available with restrictions.
Once passed, the Liberal bills introduced today would make Canada the first member of the G7 to legalize marijuana for recreational use across the country.
There are lots of reasons this is a very big deal, though I do not know enough about Canadian politics to predict with any certainty whether it is really likely that marijuana will be fully legal and a consumer product in just a little over a year. Particulars aside, if Canada is truly on a certain path to full legalization in the not-too-distinct future, I think marijuana-reform-friendly states that border Canada – particularly Michigan, New Hampshire and Vermont – have yet another reason to seriously consider full legalization in order to avoid the likelihood of lots of US citizens heading up north to get legal marijuana.
Monday, April 10, 2017
A student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this week is helping the class look back on the law, policies and perceptions surrounding marijuana many decades ago. Here are the links this student has assembled in preparation for his presentation this coming week:
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
West Virginia seemingly poised to become latest medical marijuana state (and first new one in the Trump era)
This new local article, headlined "Medical marijuana bill passes WV House; Senate likely to concur," reports on some interesting and notable marijuana reform news out of the Mountain State. Here are the basic details:
A bill that would permit the use of medical marijuana in West Virginia was approved by the House of Delegates on Tuesday.
The bill (SB 386), which would have created a West Virginia Cannabis Commission charged with overseeing medical marijuana regulation in the state, passed the Senate last week.On Monday, the House of Delegates amended the bill so that instead of a commission, it would create an advisory board within the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health. They also made several other changes.
In a 51-48 vote, delegates approved an amendment by Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer and House Judiciary chairman, that would prohibit smoking, ban people from growing their own plants, and charge $100,000 annual fees for growers and processors. That fee was cut in half during a late-night floor session.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael said this afternoon that the Senate plans to concur with the House’s changes. Jacque Bland, spokeswoman for the Senate, said that likely won’t occur until Wednesday. “That’s our expectation, unless we find something that is just totally out of bounds in this bill,” Carmichael said. “We trust the House of Delegates and Chairman Shott’s work on this piece of legislation.”
If it occurs, the governor would still need to sign the bill for it to become law, and no patient identification cards would be issued until July of 2019....
The bill defines serious health conditions as cancer, HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proven ineffective, or having a medical prognosis of one year or less.
The bureau would regulate medical cannabis in the state, review physician applications, issue permits to growers, dispensaries and processors, maintain an electronic database to include “activities and information relating to medical cannabis organizations certifications and identification cards issued, practitioner registration and electronic tracking of all medical cannabis,” and maintain a directory of patients and caregivers to whom it has issued ID cards.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Should anyone get excited about the new "Path to Marijuana Reform" bills just introduced in Congress?
The question in the title of this post was my first reaction to this big new Cannabist story headlined "Bipartisan 'Path to Marijuana Reform' bills introduced to decriminalize, protect, regulate cannabis industry." The piece has the subheadline "Three marijuana-related bills address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation," and here are the basics:
U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced a package of marijuana reform bills aimed at protecting and preserving existing state-based programs while laying framework for the federal regulation of cannabis. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, announced the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” a bipartisan package of three marijuana-related bills that address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation. Included in the package is the reintroduction of legislation from Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Wyden said in a statement, referencing the legalization efforts in his home state and those made elsewhere. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”
The Path to Marijuana Reform includes the following bills, according to the announcement from Wyman and Blumenauer:
The Small Business Tax Equity Act — Create an exception to Internal Revenue Code section 280E that would allow businesses compliant with state laws to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana. Currently, under 280E, people and businesses cannot claim deductions or credits for the sale of Schedule I or Schedule II substances. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is a cosponsor of Wyden’s Senate bill and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.
Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act — Remove federal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law; ensure access to banking, bankruptcy protection, research and advertising; expunge the criminal records for certain marijuana-related offenses; prohibits residents of marijuana-legal states to be required to take a marijuana drug test for positions in the federal civil service; and easing barriers for medical marijuana research.
Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) — Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act; impose an excise tax regime on marijuana products; allow for the permitting for marijuana businesses; regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Rep. Polis is sponsoring a portion of this legislation in the House.
I am pleased to see additional federal legislative action in this space, but I have little reason to be hopeful that these reform bills will have any more chance of moving forward than a host of other like marijuana reform bill that have previously been put forward in recent years. I am certain that the pro-reform results of so many 2016 ballot initiatives helps keep the marijuana reform momentum moving, but I do not think this momentum has yet built to the point that anyone should get excited about these new bill becoming law anytime very soon.
March 30, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, March 24, 2017
Though a number of folks in a number of ways have brought a critical race perspective to discussion of marijuana law, policy and reform, I still think this topic always merits even more extensive and thoughtful attention. Thus, I am very pleased that a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is planned a presentation on racial issues surrounding marijuana reform. And here are materials this student sent my way in preparation for the class presentation and discussion next week:
Seattle Times article, "Minorities, punished most by war on drugs, underrepresented in legal pot"
Huffington Post commentary, "A Big Shift Is Necessary to Successfully Market Cannabis to Minorities"
March 24, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, March 16, 2017
The folks at the Congressional Research Service do a terrific job summarizing complicated law and policy issues for members of Congress, and their latest marijuana publication is no exception. This latest CRS report is titled "The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward," and it covers an amazing amount of marijuana law and policy in under 50 pages. Here are excerpts from its summary:
Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana — all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of March 2017, nearly 90% of the states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, allow for the medical use of marijuana in some capacity. Also, eight states and the District of Columbia now allow for some recreational use of marijuana. These developments have spurred a number of questions regarding their potential implications for federal law enforcement activities and for the nation’s drug policies as a whole.
Thus far, the federal response to state actions to decriminalize or legalize marijuana largely has been to allow states to implement their own laws on marijuana. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has nonetheless reaffirmed that marijuana growth, possession, and trafficking remain crimes under federal law irrespective of states’ positions on marijuana. Rather than targeting individuals for drug use and possession, federal law enforcement has generally focused its counterdrug efforts on criminal networks involved in the drug trade.
While the majority of the American public supports marijuana legalization, some have voiced apprehension over possible negative implications. Opponents’ concerns include, but are not limited to, the potential impact of legalization on (1) marijuana use, particularly among youth; (2) road incidents involving marijuana-impaired drivers; (3) marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized it into neighboring states that have not; and (4) U.S. compliance with international treaties. Proponents of legalization have been encouraged by potential outcomes that could result from marijuana legalization, including a new source of tax revenue for states and a decrease in marijuana-related arrests. Many of these potential implications are yet to be fully measured.
Given the current marijuana policy gap between the federal government and many of the states, there are a number of issues that Congress may address. These include, but are not limited to, issues surrounding availability of financial services for marijuana businesses, federal tax treatment, oversight of federal law enforcement, allowance of states to implement medical marijuana laws and involvement of federal health care workers, and consideration of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. The marijuana policy gap has widened each year for some time.
March 16, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The title of this post is the title of a notable new report issued by National Families in Action. The report can be downloaded at this link, and this press release about the report provides a summary of its themes and core contents:
A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favor legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana. NFIA is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.
The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period. The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal. The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states. The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent — sometimes by hundreds of times — the people who opposed marijuana.
Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs. And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot. In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).
March 15, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Terrific summary of terrific Pacific McGeorge School of Law symposium on "Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad"
As detailed on this webpage, the University of the Pacific Law Review and Global Center held a symposium last week on "Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad." The panels and panelists for the event were are terrific and timely, and the video of the event is available via the website. In addition, Professor Michael Vitiello was instrumental in arranging for two terrific students to provide a detailed multi-page summary of the symposium. This summary is much too long (and much too thoughtful) to really fit in this space, so I have linked it before and I recommend it to all. Here is how the terrific summary gets started to whet appetites from the whole product:
The University of the Pacific Law Review and Global Center Annual Symposium: Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad
Friday, March 3rd, 2017 – McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, CA
Summary by: Kendall Fisher and Rosemary Deck
The University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law hosted the “Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad Symposium” on Friday, March 3rd in Sacramento. Several notable speakers gave remarks regarding the progressing trend toward legalization. While the individual states are developing piecemeal legalization under our federalist framework, the national legalization of marijuana remains in conflict with UN drug control treaties.
Michael Vitiello, Distinguished Professor of Law at McGeorge, delivered the opening remarks. He set the stage for discussions to follow by outlining a brief history of marijuana prohibition and decriminalization, focusing particularly on changing attitudes towards marijuana – he noted that today’s younger voters grew up with movies and television shows like Pineapple Express and Workaholics that present marijuana use as socially acceptable. Professor Vitiello predicts that this generation’s more lenient attitude towards marijuana will continue the trend towards national legalization, which has already begun with eight states permitting recreational use and twenty-eight allowing some form of medical use. In addition to demographic changes in attitude, he pointed to the capital that investors are now pouring into the industry as a reason to believe a national solution is in the offing. Professor Vitiello also pointed out that, despite comments from members of the Trump Administration, namely White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s recent insinuation that the federal government may crack down on state-legal recreational use, some of these legalized states have already expressed a willingness to push back against any such federal enforcement.
Friday, March 3, 2017
What are the possibilities and foundations supporting a constutional argument for access to marijuana?
The question in the title of this post is the question being raised by a student presentation in in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar next week. (It is also a question that has become ever more timely in light of recent suggestions by members of the Trump Administration that we may soon be seeing "greater enforcement" of federal marijuana prohibition.) The student addressing this issue has assembled the following background reading:
U.S. Supreme Court Cases recognizing a right to privacy and autonomy:
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Stanley v. Georgia (1969)
Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)
March 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 27, 2017
As detailed in this new AP article, headlined "Sessions: More violence around marijuana than ‘one would think’," the US Attorney General had a few not-so-nice things to say about state marijuana reforms today. Here are the details:
The Justice Department will try to adopt “responsible policies” for enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday, adding that he believes violence surrounds sales and use of the drug in the U.S.
In a meeting with reporters, Sessions said the department was reviewing an Obama administration Justice Department memo that gave states flexibility in passing marijuana laws. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” Sessions said....
Sessions stopped short of saying what he would do, but said he doesn’t think America will be a better place with “more people smoking pot.”
“I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”...
Studies have found no correlation between legalization of marijuana and violent crime rates. But law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado say drug traffickers have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to hide in plain sight, illegally growing and shipping the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much higher.
Pot advocates say the officials have exaggerated the problem. “You can’t sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that,” Sessions said.
Sessions said he met with Nebraska’s attorney general, who sued Colorado for allegedly not keeping marijuana within its borders. That lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but neighboring states continue to gripe that Colorado and other pot-legal states have not done enough to keep the drug from crossing their borders.
February 27, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, February 25, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new piece by RAND's Beau Kilmer appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here are excerpts from the start and end of a useful short commentary:
The cannabis-policy landscape is undergoing dramatic change. Although many jurisdictions have removed criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis and more than half of U.S. states allow physicians to recommend it to patients, legalizing the supply and possession of cannabis for nonmedical purposes is a very different public policy. Since the November 2016 election, 20% of the U.S. population lives in states that have passed ballot initiatives to allow companies to sell cannabis for any reason and adults 21 or older to purchase it. Although other states may move toward legalization, uncertainty abounds because of the federal prohibition on cannabis. The Obama administration tolerated these state laws; it’s unclear what the Trump administration will do.
There is also tremendous uncertainty about the net effect of cannabis legalization on public health. Most adults who occasionally use cannabis find it pleasurable and don’t experience substantial problems. There is a growing body of research on the medical benefits of consuming cannabis flowers or extracts, and legalization should make it easier to study the therapeutic potential and allow access for patients who could benefit.
But cannabis use comes with important risks. For example, cannabis intoxication impairs cognitive and psychomotor function, and there’s strong evidence that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis, increases the risk of psychotic symptoms or panic attacks. Approximately 9% of people who try cannabis meet criteria for cannabis dependence at some point. The rate roughly doubles for those who initiate use before 17 years of age and is much higher for adolescents who use cannabis weekly or more often....
Jurisdictions considering legalizing cannabis for nonmedical purposes will have to make several decisions that could have profound consequences for public health. For example, decision makers will have to determine how cannabis will be supplied (see diagram Continuum of Recreational Cannabis Supply Options.). Allowing sales by for-profit companies is only one option. Since daily and near-daily cannabis users account for the vast majority of cannabis expenditures, many businesses will target and attempt to expand the number of heavy users. Experiences with alcohol and tobacco suggest that profit-maximizing firms and their lobbyists will eventually fight to weaken regulations intended to protect health.
Even if states allow for-profit companies to produce cannabis, local governments could limit retail sales to nonprofit organizations or sell the drug through a government monopoly. Jurisdictions less focused on generating tax revenue could simply permit home production and gifting (as Washington, D.C., does) or allow user cooperatives (an option offered in Uruguay).
Second, jurisdictions will have to decide how cannabis should be priced. The post-legalization retail price of cannabis will not only influence revenues and the size of the illicit market, it will also affect consumption. Legalizing cannabis can dramatically reduce production and distribution costs for at least three reasons: suppliers no longer have to be compensated for the risk of seizure and arrest; it allows producers to take advantage of economies of scale; and it makes it easier to incorporate new technologies into the production process. Jurisdictions seeking to ensure that cannabis retail prices don’t drop precipitously have many options. For example, they could limit production, impose costly regulations on suppliers, require a minimum price, or levy an excise tax.
Third, jurisdictions will need to decide whether to update their prevention messaging — and whether prevention campaigns will start before legal cannabis is available. They could target young people with such messages to counter commercial promotion where it’s allowed and encourage adults to talk to them about the effects of cannabis, especially on driving. Prevention also includes efforts to limit access and exposure to cannabis products. Policymakers can learn important lessons about prevention from research on alcohol and tobacco.
Fourth, given the dearth of information about the consequences associated with high-potency cannabis products and our inability to measure cannabis impairment, risk-averse policymakers may consider initially limiting access to certain types of products or imposing a cap on products’ THC content. Another option, offered by Stanford social psychologist Robert MacCoun and others, is to tax cannabis according to THC content, thereby giving jurisdictions a lever to nudge users toward lower-potency products.
Finally, since each supply option has trade-offs, some jurisdictions may want to start with a middle-ground option before embracing a for-profit model (see diagram). One strategy is to implement a sunset clause allowing policymakers to decide after a predetermined period whether to maintain the status quo or switch approaches. Since no one knows the best way to tax or regulate cannabis, creating flexible rules would make it easier to make midcourse corrections and incorporate new research and other insights into policies.
Although public health outcomes are clearly important, they aren’t the only considerations when setting cannabis policy. The costs of enforcing prohibition, racial and ethnic disparities in cannabis arrests, the size of the illicit market, impact on public budgets, and nonmedical benefits of using cannabis (e.g., pleasure, stress relief) are just a few of the other issues that warrant discussion. In addition, we should be skeptical of people who claim to know what the net effect of cannabis legalization on public health will be. Much will depend on implementation decisions, but jurisdictions’ ability to minimize health risks will also depend on how they respond to new information and other sources of uncertainty.
Friday, February 10, 2017
This article from the Cannabist, headlined "Colorado sold $1.3 billion worth of marijuana in 2016," report on the latest notable sales numbers for the first state to have legalize recreational marijuana stores. Here are the details:
It’s a billion-dollar business — and then some. In 2016, Colorado’s dispensaries bagged $1.3 billion in recreational and medical cannabis sales, based on Colorado Department of Revenue tax data released Thursday.
To put the state’s third year of regulated recreational marijuana sales in perspective, Year One totaled $699.2 million (combined with medical sales) and Year Two jumped up to $996.2 million. The trend should continue in Year Four, but beyond that? It’s a murkier proposition.
“Colorado has had a really good run, being the first mover,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, which provides economic and market consulting services to legal cannabis markets. “Now, as other states legalize, some of these external benefits that are occurring are going to be eroded.”...
2016 was the year in which the $100-million-month became a baseline and heralded a record-breaking summer: The combined sales for July, August and September were $376.6 million. Monthly sales topped $100 million in eight of the 12 months. In December, which is typically a strong month for cannabis transactions, pot shops’ sales were a little more than $114.7 million, a 13 percent increase from the $101.3 million recorded in December 2015....
The Colorado Department of Revenue’s tax data don’t provide information about transactions, so it’s difficult to know the impact of price declines on the overall sales totals. The data do show that recreational marijuana accounted for an $875 million share of that haul while medical sales accounted for roughly $438 million.
They also show that Colorado brought in about $199 million in tax and fees revenue for the calendar year. Marijuana tax revenue is put toward areas such as school construction projects, public health and law enforcement.
It’s the visitor demand that drives a lot of this incremental growth in Colorado’s marijuana industry, Light said. That includes the tourist who buys an eighth for a ski trip here and that’s also the visitors who come into the state to purchase product to illegally supply to other markets, he said. The Denver Post reported in January that research commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office found interest in legal weed waning among visitors. “2016 represented a return to the more usual Colorado traveler,” tourism director Cathy Ritter said.
February 10, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 6, 2017
"State Legalization of Marijuana and Our American System of Federalism: A Historio-Constitutional Primer"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Brian Blumenfeld now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Federal law, pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act, maintains a strict criminal prohibition on marijuana use of any kind. In states that have legalized marijuana, and in states proposing to do so, a fundamental conflict arises between federal powers and state sovereignty. This conflict implicates some of the most vital aspects of the structural constitution: the Commerce Power, the Necessary and Proper Clause, the anti-commandeering doctrine, and Supremacy Clause preemption.
In recent years a healthy scholarship has emerged to wrestle with the subject, providing insightful commentary and argument, but missing in the literature is an unabbreviated account of the major features of federalism that frame the legalization controversy. Also missing is a historical background situating the CSA's marijuana prohibition within the American political-legal tradition.
This article provides the reader with an extensive constitutional and historical foundation for understanding what is now recognized as "the most pressing and complex federalism issue of our time."
February 6, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
A couple of marijuana reform supporters already have a couple of commentaries flagging some decisions of new SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch concerning marijuana:
From Tom Angell here, "Trump's Supreme Court Pick On Marijuana"
From Heavy.com here, "Neil Gorsuch & Marijuana: What Are His Views on Legalization?"
I am not sure there is a whole lot here to get assess, but I surmise from other opinions dealing with other issues that Judge Gorsuch is a fan of federalism and limits on federal powers. That philosophy should generally bode well for marijuana reformers at this moment in time, and I do think it likely that some marijuana law and reform issues are likely to end up before the Supreme Court in the decades to come.
Monday, January 23, 2017
Terrific UC Davis Law Review Symposium papers on "Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana"
I just realized all the great articles from the UC Davis Law Review's Symposium on "Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana" are now in print (and now available at this link) in the December 2016 issue of the UC Davis Law Review: Here is the great set of article with links to the pieces:
Keynote Speech — The Surprising Collapse of Marijuana Prohibition: What Now? by Richard J. Bonnie
Marijuana Legalization and Horizontal Federalism by Brianne J. Gorod
Legal Cannabis in the U.S.: Not Whether but How? by Sam Kamin
Tax Benefits of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores by Benjamin M. Leff
The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana by Steven W. Bender
The Economics of Workplace Drug Testing by Jeremy Kidd
Marijuana Legalization and Pretextual Stops by Alex Kreit
Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise? by Michael Vitiello
Drug War and Peace by Erik Luna
January 23, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, January 19, 2017
The Obama administration has largely taken a hands-off approach, releasing a 2013 Department of Justice memo indicating that federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents should not use scarce resources to shut down state-legal operations in places that have “implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems.” To the Obama administration’s credit, the president did recently note marijuana legalization is “a debate that is now ripe” and the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse called for more research to determine which “policy structures — beyond simply prohibition or free market — are most likely to keep harms to a minimum.”
No one knows what the Trump administration will do about marijuana, and Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general didn’t provide much insight. Will it follow Obama’s lead? Trudeau’s? Do something entirely different? The new administration will have at least six options.
Shut it down. The administration could crack down on marijuana businesses in states that have legalized for nonmedical purposes. It would be easy for DOJ to send out “cease and desist” letters to these companies and their landlords. However, there could be serious political costs with states arguing these federal actions would put people out of jobs, increase income for criminals and take tax dollars away from good causes.
Shape the markets. The DOJ could use its discretion to shape what the market looks like in the legalization states. Want to stop stores from selling and promoting high-potency products for nonmedical purposes? A letter could probably do the trick here, too. If not, seizing the products in a store or two could have a chilling effect.
Maintain the status quo. Doing nothing—and sticking with Obama’s approach—is always an option. This would likely lead more states to follow Colorado and Washington and grant licenses to marijuana companies incentivized to maximize profits instead of protecting public health.
Reclassify marijuana. The new administration could support rescheduling marijuana. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug—the most restrictive category—because the Food and Drug Administration remains unconvinced that the whole plant material has an accepted medical use. Rescheduling would make it easier to research the health consequences—benefits and harms—and could have implications for marijuana businesses.
Address federal-state conflicts. The new administration could maintain federal prohibition while supporting legislation or other solutions to address problems caused by the federal-state conflict. For example, banks that accept money from state-legal marijuana businesses are committing federal offenses. The inability to bank like other entities creates challenges for thousands of companies. The administration could also support the creation of a policy waiver system that would make it easier and less risky for states to legally experiment with alternatives to the profit-maximization model, such as the state monopoly approach. (That said, the risk of federal interference hasn’t stopped tiny North Bonneville in southern Washington state from creating a government-owned and -operated store).
Legalize it. The administration could support legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana at the federal level. This would address the federal-state conflicts and allow the feds to impose a national tax or minimum price. It would also be a blatant violation of the international drug conventions that the United States has signed along with almost every other nation on earth (including Canada).
These six options are not all mutually exclusive and each comes with tradeoffs. Importantly, they are all compatible with a federal approach that encourages and supports discussions about marijuana prohibition and its alternatives. But if the feds don’t act, it is possible the United States could end up with a much looser and more commercial marijuana model than if the federal government legalized or created a waiver system.
January 19, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, January 13, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new article from The Hill. Here are excerpts:
Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced measures to loosen laws restricting access to or criminalizing marijuana, a rush of legislative activity that supporters hope reflects a newfound willingness by public officials to embrace a trend toward legalization.
The gamut covered by measures introduced in the early days of legislative sessions underscores the patchwork approach to marijuana by states across the country — and the possibility that the different ways states treat marijuana could come to a head at the federal Justice Department, where President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general is a staunch opponent of legal pot.
Some states are taking early steps toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. In his State of the State address this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he will push legislation to remove criminal penalties for non-violent offenders caught with marijuana. “The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo’s office wrote to legislators. “The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana. Legislation has passed the Republican-led state House in recent years, though it died when Sununu’s predecessor, now-Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), said she did not support the move.
Several states are considering allowing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states already have widespread medical marijuana schemes, and this year legislators in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have introduced bills to create their own versions. Republicans in control of state legislatures in most of those states are behind the push.
Legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey will consider recently introduced measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
There is little consensus on just how to approach legalization: Three different bills have been introduced in Connecticut’s legislature. Two have been introduced in New Mexico, and three measures to allow medical pot have been filed in Missouri.
In 2016, voters in four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California — joined Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado in passing ballot measures legalizing pot for recreational purposes. Those efforts, marijuana reform advocates say, have lifted the stigma legislators might have felt. “Now that voters in a growing number of states have proven that this is a mainstream issue, many more lawmakers feel emboldened to champion marijuana reform, whereas historically this issue was often looked at as a marginalized or third-rail issue,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.
Just because measures get introduced does not mean they will advance. In many cases, Angell said, it is governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — who stand in the way. Though Democrats control the Connecticut legislature, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has made clear he is no supporter of legalized pot. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has not said he would veto a legalization bill, though he is far less friendly to the idea than his predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin.
In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has called decriminalizing marijuana a “horrible, horrible idea.” Democratic legislators are considering a plan to put legal marijuana to voters, by proposing an amendment to the state constitution. If New Jersey legislators advance a legalization law, they would run into an almost certain veto from Gov. Chris Christie (R).
While 14 state legislatures have legalized marijuana for medical use, no state legislature has passed a measure legalizing pot for recreational use. “Every year, we’ve seen legalizers throw everything at the wall to see what might stick,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “I’m not surprised by any means. I don’t think there’s much appetite to legalize through the legislature.”...
In Washington, the incoming Trump administration has sent signals that encourage, and worry, both supporters and opponents of looser pot rules. The Obama Justice Department issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys downplaying the importance of prosecuting crimes relating to marijuana in states where it is legal.
Trump’s nominee to head the next Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has been sharply critical of states that have legalized marijuana. In his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said current guidelines, known as the Cole memo, are “truly valuable.”
Marijuana industry advocates seized on those comments in hopes of locking Sessions into maintaining the status quo. “The current federal policy, as outlined by the Cole memo, has respected carefully designed state regulatory programs while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.